Anxiety is one of those ‘life’ things that can kind of consume your whole world, if not your whole day if you’re not too careful. The fix – or really, the balance – comes from the long game; daily habits and rituals that have benefits for the long term.
But the thing is, if you’ve fallen off the healthy routine bandwagon for a little too long, these habits can sometimes feel too hard, too far and not enough to get you feeling “right” (even if, they probably would be bloody brilliant if you just did them).
The following are a few quick fixes for these moments to help you find you mojo, calm the storm and have you feeling just a bit more grounded and back inside your body, instead of floating around above your head. They’re methods that I use frequently to great results, and things I share in clinic at least weekly.
1. Drink some tulsi tea
This tip I got from my fantastic fiancé, and it was a herb I’d never heard of at the time. Blake uses it to calm the heart palpitations he gets in response to some foods he’s allergic to (like MSG) or sensitive to (like caffeine, especially in coffee) and it truly works a treat. Tulsi or ‘Holy Basil’ is a herb used in India for many reasons, including the common cold and digestion. But it’s also an ‘adaptogen’, meaning that it calms the nervous system and improves your ability to adapt to stress.
I’ve had clients drink this to calm their nerves before a job interview, successfully, or to help calm their brain and induce sleep when they’ve been experiencing insomnia. Blake will often brew me a cup if he can see that I’m anxious, which helps me a lot, and now I brew it for myself when I want to stay calm and clear. I’ve even now bought the essential oil of tulsi and burn it on particularly anxious days. We even grew it in our garden last summer so we could use it in food.
2. Keep your active wear beside your bed (including a fresh pair of knickers)
If you’re anything like me, especially through and after winter, the idea of getting out of bed to exercise isn’t always that appealing. I adapted this tip from Sarah Wilson, who keeps her kit in a bucket by the door. I keep mine right next to my bed so I don’t even have to get out of bed to get dressed. In other words, let the clothes come to you instead of you having to go to the clothes. Funny, but really, it works. You have even less excuse to sleep in if it’s sitting right there, within reach.
(A lot of my friends have been telling me this seems like more effort, but to my lazy brain, it is not. Adapt it however you need to make it easy for you)
3. Gorge on good fats and protein
This one is for the hangry folk. The ones who skip a meal by putting things off then struggle to cope because there isn’t enough fuel in the tank to sustain you. Trust me on this; you will feel amazing if you eat a whole lotta protein and good fats right now. Even if all you can manage is shredded chicken from the deli or a tub of hummus and crackers, if you can feed yourself fats and protein not only will you feel satisfied and calm, the feeling will stay with you for several hours until you can have a proper meal. Myself, I have been using this tip on myself for so long that if I now crave protein when I feel like this, and it’s a much better payoff than chocolate as far as energy is concerned. I just make sure that when I have my next meal, there’s plenty of veg, and make a conscious effort to drink more water, too.
Further to this point…
4. Eat a Childhood Snack You Love
Childhood snacks are super comforting. They remind you of being looked after, at a time where you had no responsibilities, and sometimes they can be just what you need to give your head a break from the incessant to-do list you have rolling around in your head.
But, there is a clause here. When I’m talking childhood snacks, I’m talking about the ones that still have some nutritional value to them. So nothing sugary. Instead, go for kid-friendly snacks that are fun but high in protein and good fats.
Perfect examples are celery sticks filled with peanut butter/nut butter, a toasted tomato and cheese sandwich (even if you use a vegan alternative like Bio Cheese), a cold chicken drumstick, or my absolute favourite as a kid, a boiled egg peeled and broken up with a fork in a mug with butter and a pinch of salt. My Mum used to make this for me when I was a kid and called it ‘Miranda’s scrambled eggs’ because that’s what I thought it was. I also really loved lettuce and tasty cheese sandwiches when I was little – am I the only one?
Anyway, you get my drift. Eat fun snacks that are high protein and fat, low sugar. Protein and fat are essential for creating the hormones that make us happy, motivated and calm, plus the balancing effect on our blood sugar makes us less likely to be moody between meals.
5. Turn your phone off
… or put it on aeroplane mode (for at least an hour). If the idea of dealing with emails and phone calls and social media and, well, people is making you anxious, then take a conscious break from it. If something is important, either they’ll leave you a message or they’ll come and find you. Everything else can wait (especially the pushy people who don’t want to).
Personally, I put my phone on aeroplane mode every night before bed (sometimes earlier). Constantly communicating and serving and writing and giving all day often makes it harder for me to disengage, but if I put my phone on aeroplane mode on the other side of the room or even in another room, those compulsions dissipate and I become present and calm. This practise has made it easier for me to switch off from notifications when they come in during the day now too which enables me to deal with them when I’ve got my wits about me.
The same goes with designating a time/times to answer emails each day and switching off the push notification function on some of the more distracting apps. Especially if you’ve got several accounts to attend to (personal, work, side project, dog, business, etc) leaving it all to bombard you with constant notifications is distracting as hell, and can have you feeling frazzled at the best of times. If you can’t simplify the accounts, at least simplify their delivery.
6. Go out and have a beer with friends
As important as it is to nourish yourself from a nutrition point of view, nourishing your soul is an important part of the equation too. I’m not at all encouraging a binge session here, but having a wine, a spirit or a beer on an afternoon every once in a while with mates can be just as calming to the nervous system as meditation. After all, alcohol is a relaxant, and if you’re out, being social, seeing a band, cooking up a storm, dancing the night away or just having a gab, you’re releasing that stress hormone (cortisol) that puts you in a frenzy. You (of course) don’t have to drink for this to work, but there is something to be said about a chilled out Sunday sesh – especially if you’ve got work again the next morning. Embrace the fun and spend time with great people. It does the world of good for everyone involved.
7. Wash Your Car
When I’m anxious, I rarely feel like I’m a grown-up, or that I even have my shit together at times. My hair isn’t brushed, my car is a mess, and I literally haven’t seen my sunglasses in 3 weeks (seriously, have you seen them?! I’ve looked everywhere!)
It may sound silly, but washing the car is super fun! When I was a kid, I would make excuses to wash the car for my Dad, because I’d have an excuse to play with water, and when I got my first car, I washed it every week because it made me feel like I was a grown up, responsible adult, who had just bought their first freakin car!
So when I’m in a funk, I like to drive my car to the car wash, put in a few coins and get to scrubbing/frolicking in the soapy water. The simple step of washing my car is a fun way to feel like I at least have one thing sorted (because grown-ups drive clean cars, and refer to themselves as a “grown-up” lol). It doesn’t feel like a chore, because I enjoy it, and it’s probably not the most “important” thing on my to do list, but I’ll be darned if I don’t feel a bit more motivated driving back in my shiny car with something fun blaring on the radio to get more stuff done when I get back (like vacuum the inside of the car).
Even if you go through a drive-thru car wash, some chores can definitely be enjoyable.
Do you have any favourite tips for dealing with your anxiety in the moment? I’d love to know!